Spike Africa’s – It’s New! It’s Wonderful!

| March 8, 2013 | 0 Comments

The dining area is casual and sophisticated.

Spike Africa’s Fish Grill & Bar opened a few months ago in the old Payless Shoes location on Broadway and Fourth, across the street from the redevelopment area of Horton Plaza. It is so new it doesn’t have permanent signage up yet. But, it is right on the corner. You can’t miss it.

Spike Africa is the name of a real person, a seafaring adventurer who captained one of the last wooden “tall ship” schooners in the Pacific. Born Philip Marion Africa, far from the ocean, he was eventually called “Spike” after a tool used for rigging in sailing ships.

Spike first shipped out of Seattle and learned the art of sailing, going to many world ports. Later, he ran his own vessel carrying freight and other items between Seattle and Alaska. During WW II, he joined the “Seabees” and saw action against the Japanese on one of the famous Pacific island battles. This was featured in a TV program. Later, he sailed with Sterling Hayden, the actor, who defied court orders to take his children to Tahiti. The voyage was chronicled in Hayden’s book. Spike was so well known that he was given the honorary title “President of the Pacific.” Some of his materials and writing are framed and displayed in the restaurant. Spike died many years ago at age 77.

In short, Spike was a real person, a legendary character around whose persona the restaurant is themed. This is significant because the owners and developers of the restaurant did similar things with a prior venture that they built up into a significant chain before selling out to Landry’s. They were the powers behind the Bubba Gump chain of restaurants, which I’ve greatly enjoyed in Hawaii and on the East Coast. In that chain, these folks also leveraged the image and popularity of a real person as the focal point of their enterprise.

Despite the nautical theme, the interior of the restaurant is subdued, without overwhelming diners with fish netting, buoys, clamshells and other decoration that is found so commonly in such places. The ceiling has piping, giving it a warehouse feel. The wood planking is made, I was told, from 100 year old planks that came off old ships. The interior consists of comfortable booths surrounding nice wooden tables. A bar runs along one side. A glassed in patio looks out over the changes being made to Horton Plaza.

Fish is fresh daily, prepared by and under the direction of executive chef Paul Rinaudo. He’s a friendly, affable man who loves to come out of the kitchen to find out personally how his guests enjoyed the food. He’s possibly a familiar face to local diners. After training at the prestigious Johnson & Wales Culinary Academy, he worked nearby at such notable kitchens such as Jsix Restaurant, the Lodge at Torrey Pines, and the Catamaran Resort and Spa.

Available fish selections may vary from time to time but often include Wahoo from Fiji, Barramundi from Australia, Salmon from Scotland, and Mahi Mahi from Ecuador.

The location of the restaurant, surrounded by tall office buildings and the nearby courthouses, suggests that it will do a good lunchtime business. To meet the demand, a lunch menu features fish as well as lighter fish tacos and even grilled chicken breast sandwich.

An “anytime” menu is an extensive listing of food offerings available, as the name says, anytime. fish & chips, lobster roll, scallops, and flat iron steak are only a few of what’s available. There is even grilled artichoke with melted butter and chipotle aioli.

Dinner offering are mostly larger portions of the lunchtime offerings plus several meat and chicken dishes. But swordfish, thick and dense, combining the health of a fish dish with the texture of a steak dish, is now also on the menu. Dishes come with a choice of one side and a sauce. I had the swordfish, which was superbly prepared, along with fingerling potato and a butter sauce that was marvelous with the fish. The mustard glazed salmon, silvery and moist on the plate of roasted peppers, brought smiles of joy to my delighted companion.

Be sure to leave room for dessert. The homemade butterscotch pudding, with dark rum or the fruit cobbler with seasonal fruit, are well worth the price of admission.

The restaurant’s Happy Hour is sure to attract locals relaxing after a hard day at the office. Running from 4 to 6:30 p.m. weekdays, the food and drinks specials are extraordinary.

So, sail in to Spike Africa’s Fish Grill & Bar. The ambiance is casual, food and service great. The restaurant is located at 411 Broadway at the corner of 4th Avenue. Call 619.795.3800 for reservations and information.

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